[games_access] New Member and thoughts about legislation

Michael Ellison devellison at gmail.com
Tue Dec 4 19:07:54 EST 2007

Greetings again,
I think I managed to mail the bounce folder directly the first
time, thanks for catching that Michelle!

I'm gonna back out of the legislation/petition discussion for now.

As far as why the game industry, and the software industry as a whole,
don't currently make their products accessible - here's the reasons I
1.) It's expensive, and the relative financial return on investment is
small. Same reason why there aren't many games ported to Macintosh or
2.) We don't know how, or aren't aware of the specific problems our
products may present to each type of disability. I've worked on
products where all the indicators were little circles of different
colors. Changing them to be different shapes as well as different
colors took about 5 minutes, but the original implementors hadn't ever
thought about anyone having difficulty telling the difference between
green, yellow, and red circles and no one had complained. Someone
just had to point out the problem and provide an easy solution.

Here's my thoughts on solutions to the above. I don't know if I'm
adding anything new idea-wise, but as an engineer looking for ways to
help I'm still currently looking for a problem to solve ;)

1.) First, solve any problems that can be solved by third-party
software for multiple games. This is where you'll get the most bang
for the buck, and it means you get benefit from it now on multiple
products. It also provides examples for the software industry to
follow on what actually works. I don't know what the problems that
are left in this category are right now - I see a lot of specialist
software to solve different accessibility problems, but I don't know
what works and what doesn't or what's been left out.

2.) Second, make generic libraries that can be integrated by game
developers that provide those functions as easily and transparently as
possible - and preferably make them open and free for the developers
to use using BSD-style licenses (not GPL ones). If possible, get
these libraries integrated with the big game development libraries
like Miles Sound System, Microsoft's DirectX and XBox SDKs, Sony's
SDKs, etc. so that any new major game gets the features for free. The
cheaper and easier it is for game developers to make their games
accessible, the more likely they will.

3.) Third, keep doing what ya'll are doing for awareness. It got me
here, others will come. I do think that specifically targetting Open
Source groups will get you a lot of mileage in the long run, although
there will be a lot of false starts in the process (fair warning: when
people are doing things for free in their spare time, the stuff can
get derailed easily by events in the individuals' lives. Try not to
get too frustrated by this. Best defense against it is to get multiple
people working together on projects so that leadership can be
transferred if a problem arises).

4.) Finally, keep trying to change the design process of video games
to be more inclusive to those with disabilities. As you already know,
this part will be extremely hard in a lot of cases, and it will affect
the game as a whole for everyone. In a lot of cases there will be
tradeoffs between accessibility and normal gameplay that require a lot
of thought and time. The fact that most development efforts are
*already* behind schedule, over budget, and are throwing out features
they wanted left and right won't help. It's definitely worth doing,
I'm glad ya'll are doing it, but I think it's the hardest and slowest

I'd like to have a shot at my #1 up there. If it looks like I'm doing
something useful and enjoying it, I'll toss around the idea for #2
(libraries) and see if I can find others interested in it as well.

So, what software would be useful?

I've taken a look at the QuadController, but aside from pictures and
video I don't have any experience with it. It looks like the PC
version installs as a native game device with one joystick, some
toggles, and a few buttons. It also looks like they've got some form
of Joystick->Mouse emulation available for it that could work both
with games and with normal applications.

What are the common hurdles you currently face interacting with modern
games that existing hardware and software don't fix? Are there
problems still around that could be generalized and solved by external
software for multiple games? I can put just about any kind of
interface up inside modern PC games and/or reroute just about any kind
of input switches you can throw at me into any other kind of input or
output. I may be able to slow down or change the rendering behavior
of a lot of modern PC games, but it'll depend on how they're written.

Let me know if there's something I can do that'd be useful.

Mike Ellison

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